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Utkarsh Garg
Utkarsh Garg

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Spice up linux based terminal in Windows

I am a fan of Windows UI and Linux terminal interface at the same time. Yes! we do exist πŸ˜‰. During my college days, I set up dual boot in my laptop - both Windows and Linux. It allowed me to finish assignments, for which I preferred the Linux terminal. At the same time, I could play CSGO πŸ”« in Windows by switching the OS. However, with the office-provided laptop, I could only use Windows 😞. I was missing the Linux terminal, and the Windows native terminal sucked as I was habitual of using Linux commands that usually don't work.

I got introduced to Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) a few days back, which empowered me to run Linux commands in windows. On top of it, I configured the terminal to look extravagant as below (notice those colored instructions and icons):
Spicy Terminal

In this blog, I will be sharing steps, by following which you can also set up a terminal similar to this and enjoy Linux terminal features natively in Windows.

Let's get started.

1. Installing WSL in Windows.

Step 1: Enable WSL feature.

To run WSL on windows, you first need to enable the feature.
Go to Settings > Apps > App & Features. Under Related Settings section select Program and Features.
Program and Features

Now select Turn Windows features on or off option on left. From the list of open options, turn Windows subsystem for Linux on.
Windows subsystem for Linux

Step 2: Install Linux distribution

Go to Microsoft store and search for Linux distros. You will see many options like Ubuntu 20.94LTS, Kali Linux, Ubuntu 18.04LTS, Debian, SUSE Linux. You can download any one of them as per your preference. I prefer using Ubuntu as I have already used it.
Linux distros on Microsoft store

Once installed, launch the downloaded Linux distros by searching from the Start menu or from the Microsoft store itself. For the first time, you will be asked to set your username and password.

After you complete the above steps, you are ready to use the Linux terminal in Windows. Try playing around with the commands. Pretty cool 😎, right. Now let's move on to give this terminal a makeover to make it look attractive.

2. Giving terminal a fresh look

Step 1: Install zsh

zsh is a type of shell similar to bash but more interactive. (Learn more about zsh here). Run the following command to install zsh:

sudo apt-get install zsh
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After installation is complete, make sure it's installed by running zsh --version. If it shows a version, be assured that zsh is installed.

Step 2: Install oh-my-zsh

oh-my-zsh is a powerful plugin manager for zsh shell. It includes 300+ optional plugins (rails, git, OSX, hub, docker, homebrew, node, php, python, etc...), 140+ themes to spice up your morning, and an auto-update tool, so that makes it easy to keep up with the latest updates from the community.

Quoting from oh-my-zsh:

Once installed, your terminal shell will become the talk of the town or your money back! With each keystroke in your command prompt, you'll take advantage of the hundreds of powerful plugins and beautiful themes. Strangers will come up to you in cafΓ©s and ask you, "that is amazing! are you some sort of genius?"

Okay, enough talking about it. Let's see it in action. 🎬

sh -c "$(curl -fsSL"
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The above command will install oh-my-zsh in your terminal and update the ~/.zshrc file. If you are not aware, .*rc files are configuration files. In bash, there is ~/.bashrc. Similarly, for zsh there is ~/.zshrc file. Every configuration related to the zsh shell will be made here.

Now you might be wondering what we got out of it. As said earlier, oh-my-zsh will allow you to install various plugins and themes for your terminal. Plugins are there to make your life easier. They make you feel like a 10x developer by powering you with their special abilities. For example, a git plugin will show you which branch you are on and how many files are changed on the command line itselfβ€”no need to manually run git commands to look for branch or changed files. You can find the list of available plugins here. Themes, on the other hand, are to make your terminal look prettier. You can select from a list of available themes(internal-themes, external-themes) as per your preference.

Now you will ask where to add plugins and configure theme? Here comes the role of ~/.zshrc. Open file in the inline editor with vi ~/.zshrc. (Please don't say you don't like vi editor πŸ™‰). Look for the plugins variable. There will be default some plugins mentioned already something like below:

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You can either add or delete a plugin as per your need. You can search for the plugins from the list shared above.

Now coming to the theme, you will see a variable ZSH_THEME and a default theme mentioned ZSH_THEME="robbyrussell".

I don't like the default theme and prefer powerlevel10k theme instead. It's swift and lightweight and works like a charm. So in the following steps, I will be sharing how to set up the powerlevel10k theme. If you like to install another theme, it's okay; you can use it from the list of available themes. (Shared link above).

Step 3: Install powerlevel10k theme.

Run the following command to clone the repo :

git clone --depth=1 ${ZSH_CUSTOM:-$HOME/.oh-my-zsh/custom}/themes/powerlevel10k
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After cloning, set ZSH_THEME="powerlevel10k/powerlevel10k" in ~/.zshrc. Now run source ~/.zshrc. For first-time users, powerlevel10k will ask a set of questions to configure your terminal look. If it does not ask, don't worry; run p10k configure in the terminal.

If you notice that icons or shapes are not rendering properly, it means required font is not installed. Install all the fonts mentioned here.

Once you have installed fonts in Windows, open Linux terminal settings (as shown below):
Terminal settings

From the settings panel, set font as MesloLGS NF Regular.
Set up font.

After setting up the font, run p10k configure to reconfigure the theme, and now you will be able to see all icons and shapes.

Did it spice up your experience of Linux terminal in Windows ?

I hope this is helpful and interesting to you. If you find this useful, please leave a like and comment down your thoughts.

I am on Twitter. You can follow me there.

Cover Credit: Photo by Gabriel Heinzer on Unsplash

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